Fuse #8

Friday, December 22, 2006

In Like LeGuin

I, personally, don't have a problem reading children's books on the subway (I really only get funny looks if I'm delving into my picture book stash). Still, there's always this undercurrent present in the kid book community that suggests that if you read them you're really not indulging in real a.k.a. adult literature. Tired of going to cocktail parties only to find that your fellow guests just don't get how cool the Bartimeaus trilogy is? Ursula LeGuin to the rescue. In her article Imaginary Friends published in the New Statesman, Ms. LeGuin defends the fantasy genre. One bon mot goes so far as to say that for adults that pooh-pooh fantasy, "There should be a word - 'maturismo', like 'machismo'? - for the anxious savagery of the intellectual who thinks his adulthood has been impugned." Sock it to 'em, lady!

HOWEVER... woe betide you to read realistic children's fiction. LeGuin is willing to support fantasy readers. Realism, however, is another story entirely.
Realism comes in three separate age categories, fully recognised by publishers. Didactic, explanatory, practical and reassuring, realistic fiction for young children hasn't much to offer people who've already learned about dump trucks, vaccinations and why Heather has two mommies. Realistic "Young Adult" novels tend to focus tightly on situations and problems of little interest to anyone outside that age group.
Just as few adults read fantasy when they cross into maturity, so too do I suspect that Ms. LeGuin hasn't gotten her hands on any realistic children or YA novels written in the last ten years. How funny that she couldn't defend one form of fiction without beating down another.

7 Comments:

At 8:52 AM , Blogger Kelly Fineman said...

So Ursula LeGuin thinks I'm a loser, apparently. Recent "realistic" yet not didactic novels I've enjoyed include Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown, RULES by Cynthia Lord, So B. It by Sarah Weeks, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, and -- well, the list goes on. And they're all spectacular. And much better than a fair percentage of "realistic" adult fiction I've read.

Phbbbbbt to her for that, but I'm glad she made a stand for children's and YA fantasy. Then again, it's part of what she writes.

 
At 10:26 AM , Blogger Roger Sutton said...

And don't forget LeGuin's contribution to the YA problem novel, Very Far Away from Anywhere Else. It was about two teens deciding NOT to have sex, and positively slathered itself with virtue.

 
At 1:20 PM , Blogger sdn said...

this is where i get to point out that, in fact, she blurbed ellen klages's the green glass sea and carol emshwiller's mister boots. both of which are realistic novels for 10 up.

 
At 3:20 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Then I retract my statement about how she hasn't read a good realistic children's work of fiction in the last 10 years (oh good, I'm 3 for 3 now) and instead start beating my head against a wall.

 
At 9:28 PM , Blogger sdn said...

happy to help.

::cracks up::

 
At 2:49 PM , Blogger Rozum said...

Reading comics on the subway also earns funny looks.

Not so funny are the looks I get as a single adult male perusing the children's section of the library, especially if I spend any substantial time there. I understand the concern, though it saddens me to think that being my age and gender automatically puts me under suspiscion as someone more likely to have an unhealthy interest in small children than the books they read.

 
At 12:24 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

If it's any comfort, a fellow library school student back in the day was thrown out of a children's section because she was observing a storytime. This girl was 23 at most and cute as a button. Nobody would have thought her capable of anything evil to look at her, but the librarian on duty was mighty wary. Me, I go too far in the other direction. Someone could be waving a machete in front of our Harry Potter section and as long as the waving was silent and didn't disturb anyone, I'd probably let it go. Probably.

 

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